NAPO 8: Language Thief

Today's prompt was to use a line from another poet to inspire your own work. I do this all the time. It's actually one of my go-to techniques whenever I'm experiencing writer's block. I used a line from Plath's poem, "Wuthering Heights," to inspire my own poem about Wuthering Heights Park in Beaumont. It's a kind of foreboding park--it has these beautiful shade trees, but it's also not in the best area of Beaumont and sometimes, there's unsavory activity going on there.

Plath's line is the "They stand about in grandmotherly disguise" one opening my poem. In her poem, she basically describes a beautiful English countryside pastoral as depressing. It's sheep that are standing about in grandmotherly disguise.

In my poem, I want to write about the oak trees. We tend to think of trees as being these benevolent grannies of an ecosystem, but to get to that point, damn, they had to fight. And to survive even today, they have to be a little mean. Like grannies can be.

Anyway, that's where I was going with this. I wrote another poem too where I basically copy Plath's idea and use the Wuthering Heights Park as a symbol of our world's anxiety, but I think I want to focus on the grandmother oak tree image more as I did in this poem. At any rate, as you can see, this is a work in progress.

The Oaks of Wuthering Heights Park, Beaumont
After Plath's "Wuthering Heights"

They stand about in grandmotherly disguise,
these ancient, gnarled oak trees
that line the walkway, their shawls
of wisteria hanging from their branches.
How many seasons have these oak trees seen?
Too many, they’ll tell you if you run your hands
Against the roughness of their bark.
They didn’t get this old by being sweet:
This ecosystem’s matriarch is tough, casts shade
to starve those who aren’t a part of their family tree.
They sling acorns into the dirt with a rough slap of gravity.
It’s the only way they know to make sure their grandbabies bloom.
They share gossip with one another above the canopy of green
And keep a watchful eye below. They know your secrets.
They know mine, too. Barn owls nest in their hair,
And they let them loose on the rats of this city with a smirk.

Their roots run deep into this soil, a history
of surviving floods and sawmills and blight.
Some wear the scars of past lovers who stayed a night or two,
A pocketknife in hand to leave their marks.
All have witnessed tragedy beneath their canopies.
All have had to let go of something or someone they’ve loved,
Seen so much buried in debris.

But oh, they feed and feed and feed
This park, the squirrels, the mockingbirds, the cardinals,
even the crows that caw at sunset as the spring breeze
rustles their ancient branches.

Alabaster curls of blossoms fall to the lawn below.